I just watched The Black Dahlia this evening and boy does it suck for lack of a better word. I have enjoyed James Ellroy’s books very much but this film isn't anywhere near the caliber of his fine novel of the same name. Of course the main difference is one of them you read and the other you watch (I’m not a big fan of directly comparing a book to its film version). However, the film is not even close to capturing the flavor and feel of Ellroy’s book. Obviously because of the novel’s length and complexity, attempting a straight adaptation of the book would have kept me watching till breakfast. The story was cut to hell, a necessity I understand, but it seems the cuts in narrative, background story and dialogue were for establishing an atmosphere or mood. Unfortunately the atmosphere created an urge to look at the clock every two minutes, wondering when it would end. The mood and narrative was distant to the centerpiece of the story; the Dahlia murder itself. That aspect of the film seemed quite secondary to everything else on the celluloid. Sure DePalma’s films can give your eyeballs cavities because of the way they look, and this one was no exception. It was probably his most visually stunning film to date. The actors are quite easy to gaze at as well (My friend Matt met Scarlett Johansson and said that she is even more beautiful in person than she is on screen, and he is not one for hyperbole). Johansson is much too young for the Kay role and the same goes for Hartnett as Bucky. Maybe in ten years they could have genuinely looked the part but they both looked like they were playing dress up with stuff they raided from grandpa and grandma's closet.
Brian DePalma ultimately, is just not a very good storyteller. Never has been. I like only a few of his films (Blow Out, Carlito’s Way and Scarface). Even those I just mentioned I realize are far from great, but do have their merits. The big question is why do people keep giving this guy millions of dollars to make these really mediocre to poor quality films?